NHL Notebook: Team executive calls 2023 free agent class ‘f–cking awful,’ Cody Ceci likely to stay with Edmonton Oilers, and more

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
It’s their words, not mine.
One executive in the NHL has taken aim at the group of unrestricted free agents in the league this summer calling them, and I quote, “fucking awful,” to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.
And to be honest, he’s not entirely wrong.
The top name off Frank Seravalli’s top 50 free agent list at DailyFaceoff, Damon Severson, has already been taken off the board after the Columbus Blue Jackets traded for him. It cost a third-round pick in 2023 to jump ahead of the pack, which is exactly what GM Jarmo Kekäläinen did inking the rearguard to a hefty eight-year contract with an AAV of $6.25-million. Another one of the top names, Vladislav Gavrikov, re-signed with the LA Kings.
The next names on Seravalli’s list past Severson were Boston Bruins forward Tyler Bertuzzi and defenceman Dmitry Orlov — two players who the B’s acquired during this past season in hopes of a trip to the Stanley Cup finals only to have those dashed in seven games by the Florida Panthers. Citing AFP Analytics’ projections, Seravalli has Bertuzzi earning $5.25-million over six years, and Orlov earning a million more over five years.
The dropoff from that point on is pretty significant with depth pieces like J.T. Compher, Michael Bunting, Ryan Graves, Alex Killorn, Patrick Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Tristan Jarry and Jordan Staal round out the remaining players in Seravalli’s most recent list.


Ceci sticking around?

With everyone and their pet seeming to have an idea about how to improve the Edmonton Oilers this offseason, one common suggestion has been for the club to move on from rearguard Cody Ceci.
But with two years remaining on his deal paying him $3.25-million, it appears the Oilers will be keeping him around — at least this season.
Here’s some of what The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman wrote about Ceci Friday:
The following should come as no surprise to people who’ve been reading my work for the last couple of weeks, but it’s worth repeating. Barring something unforeseen, the Oilers aren’t planning to move on from Cody Ceci this offseason. That’s what I continue to hear.
The feeling is that Ceci’s contract just has too much value for a No. 4 defenceman, nor do the Oilers have the cap space to replace him with a high-priced option.
Holland was clear that he’d like the team to get better defensively. The Oilers are counting heavily on Ceci here — at least to start next season.
Though Ceci was banged up for parts of the season, he didn’t play to the same level as he did in 2021-22. Ceci was arguably the team’s best defenceman that season. No one could make that argument about 2022-23.
It’ll be interesting to see what Holland does with his Nos. 5-7 defencemen. There’s no misconstruing how uncertain and uneasy he is about Philip Broberg’s situation. He said Broberg needs to be averaging 15 to 20 minutes of ice time. It sure seems more likely one of Broberg, Vincent Desharnais or Brett Kulak is dealt before Ceci.

Flames hire Iginla

The Calgary Flames made it official Friday naming former star player Jarome Iginla as a special advisor to general manager Craig Conroy.
The St. Albert native was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 1995 draft, but never played a game there as he was traded to the Flames in the Joe Nieuwendyk blockbuster. Eventually landing in the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the best players of his generation, Iginla, who retired in 2017, has been coaching his sons, Tij and Joe, at RINK Hockey Academy in Kelowna.
Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Mike Gould wrote about Iginla’s appointment to the Flames:
Iginla, 45, played for the Flames from 1996 to 2013 and holds club records in nearly every major statistical category. He and Conroy both helped the Flames reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2004; Iginla’s No. 12 is one of three jersey numbers retired by the Flames.
“I am grateful to the Flames ownership and Conny for this opportunity to transition my career back to the NHL,” Iginla said on Thursday. “It’s a very well-earned acknowledgment for Conny as general manager and I am looking forward to supporting him and the team in a more engaged capacity.”
The Flames named Conroy the club’s eighth full-time general manager on May 23. He succeeded Brad Treliving, who occupied the role from 2014 to 2023 before leaving to become the new GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Dating as far back as our playing days with the Flames, Jarome and I have always talked about one day working together in the NHL,” Conroy said. “That day has finally come and I’m happy to welcome him back to Calgary. Jarome provides a creative approach and smart hockey mind to our team blended with a passion for the game, and a desire to win the Stanley Cup.”

Devils sign Bratt

The New Jersey Devils are preparing to sign forward Jesper Bratt to an eight-year contract extension carrying an AAV of $7.875-million. The deal, as reported by Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, carries a total value of $63-million — the same number Bratt wears in New Jersey.
Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis wrote about Bratt:
Bratt was set to become an RFA on July 1 after completing his one-year deal worth $5.45 million. That same salary would have been the cost of his qualifying offer.
The contract will run from 2023-24 until 2030-31.
The deal should leave the Devils with roughly $27 million in cap space. The Devils have a host of other RFAs this summer, with decisions needing to come on Timo Meier, MacKenzie Blackwood, Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist, Michael McLeod, Yegor Sharangovich and Kevin Bahl. Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar, Miles Wood and Ryan Graves are all pending UFAs.
Bratt, 24, has spent his entire NHL career with the Devils since getting selected with the 162nd pick in 2016. Bratt is coming off of two consecutive 73-point seasons, a massive bump from his previous 30-35-point campaigns he had from 2017-21.
One of New Jersey’s most valuable forwards, Bratt was one of four players on the Devils to break the 70-point barrier. Hughes (99), Nico Hischier (80) and Hamilton (74) were the others.
“It was always a priority to keep Jesper Bratt here long term and both parties are thrilled that a deal was completed,” GM Tom Fitzgerald said in a team statement. “I value and commend the commitment Jesper made to this organization. We believe that he is a special player and a key member of our core group of talent who will contribute towards the team’s long-term success, and organizational goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to New Jersey.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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